Monday, March 30, 2015

Going to the mat for Charlie Hill

Jason Flores-Williams
Defense lawyer Jason Flores-Williams plans to travel to Cuba this week to meet his new client, Charlie Hill, a former New Afrika militant accused, along with two others, in the 1971 shooting of a New Mexico patrolman.
In December, New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez wrote a letter calling Hill a "cop killer" and member of a "terrorist group" and demanding that U.S. authorities press for his extradition from Cuba.
Flores-Williams said the governor used "every damning buzz word available to appeal to the forces of law and order, which also happens to be her political base." She politicized and prejudiced Hill's case and violated his constitutional rights, the defense lawyer said.
Flores-Williams said he's fighting on "the side of democracy justice and our constitution," but his decision to take the case has not been popular.
He said he's gotten a stream of harassing phone calls, including one from a man who said:
Why don’t you go fuck yourself you scuzzball piece of shit….
The defense lawyer replied:
Does this mean you want to retain my services?
See below for more from my interview with Flores-Williams:

Why did you decide to represent Charlie Hill? Why is his case important to you?
The forces that control the past, control the future….Susana Martinez’s letter to Holder and Kerry wasn’t just about the law, but demonizing the 1960’s and the social justice movements that have ultimately enabled a person like her to be elected Governor of our State.
It was one-sided, biased, prejudicial—not written for the Attorney General, but her Republican base, the people whose lives are based in fear, who still think that Reagan and Nixon were good for the country. These people love law and order, but they don’t care about constitutional rights. They say they love America, but what they really mean is that they want to control America. They want to control the law, the historical narrative, social narrative, moral narrative. i.e. what it means to be a democracy, which for the record is not what you and I think of you when we think of a democracy. It’s not what Tom Paine thought when he thought of democracy. It’s not even what Brandeis thought when he thought democracy: “We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.”
Charlie Hill
So to really it cut to it, I believe that our democracy is at stake in cases like this…or what’s left of it. The forces of control are looking for a clampdown, they see a perfect opportunity here to kill a thousand free birds of social justice with one stone. They want to exploit the case of my client. Mr. Hill, to recast, revise and re-litigate an era in American history that remains a thorn in their side. It’s a time when people stood up, insisted on their dignity, actually gave teeth to our bill of rights. I see Charlie Hill as a man dedicated to his people, who refused to just to bow down, say yes to the master and go along with the plan. And when you do that in this country, you pay for it.
But as long as guys like him are out there, I’ll be on their side—the side of democracy, justice and our constitution.

What challenges and opportunities do you foresee in his case?
Communications. Logistics. Prejudicial acts of Executive Officers. People calling my law office and leaving hate-filled messages (which are actually so stupid that they’re funny…) Surveillance by the US Government, i.e. having to be forced to constantly guard attorney-client privilege pursuant to the Sixth Amendment right counsel. The condemning of my client in total evisceration of his constitutional rights so that we come into this adjudication fighting off our backs.
But really, what else is new…this is the job. I’m not spending my existence sending off emails on the UCC to the partners at the law firm. I’m sitting here to talking to Thomas Jefferson. We hang out, go for walks in the woods, meet up with Thoreau. It’s a party. We get in the hot tub and talk about why the courts have so happily ignored the Tenth Amendment.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people. Then we go over the Fourth, Fifth and how if I don’t edit this interview, we will certainly need to avail ourselves of the First.
The bottom line is that I am representing Mr. Hill because it’s important, and things that are important are both difficult and hard. The Canon of Legal Ethics asks us to take on controversial and unpopular cases. There is the cognition that if we as attorneys don’t do battle for civil rights and the principles of our founding (fathers), then they will be lost. And so despite the challenges, there is a quiet reward in that I am doing what I’m supposed to do and trying to bring honor to this profession.

Has your decision to represent Mr. Hill brought about any negative consequences or reactions? If so, how do you deal with that sort of thing?
I cry a lot….joke. You have to stay loose. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Realize that you are a tiny part of a massively important tradition. Look, there is only (one) opinion I care about and that’s my own. As look as I can look myself in the mirror and know that I am fighting the good fight, then I can endure anything.
It’s good to go to the mat! Life is supposed to be a hellacious ride. It’s how we evolve. It’s how we get better. What matters is how you walk through the fire…Bukowski.
“Is this the Law Office of Jason Flores-Williams…”
“Why don’t you go fuck yourself you scuzzball piece of shit….”
“Does this mean you want to retain my services?”
And you never know, this guy could turn into a client someday…You deal by maintaining a sense of humor.

What do you hope to accomplish with your trip to Cuba?
Every action taken on behalf of Mr. Charlie Hill will be well within the established scope of our perfected attorney-client privilege pursuant to his Sixth Amendment right to counsel. All travel to Cuba falls appropriately within this scope as well as firmly within the parameters of the 12 Categories of approved travel to Cuba explicated by the Obama Administration, January 2015. Specifically, the general travel license as applicable to professional meetings and expertise, which in this matter is Federal Criminal Defense and Extradition Law. Further, we will act in full compliance with Secretary of Treasury regulations concerning expenditures in Cuba. These expenditures must relate to the stated professional purpose of the trip, with which, again, we have to fully complied.

Has Mr. Hill's status as a fugitive in Cuba - largely cut off from everyone outside Cuba - hurt his ability to defend himself?
The narrative until very recently has been all one-side. They’ve tried to turn him into Eichmann. And what happens in the court of public opinion affects the opinion of the court. That said, I have seen moments in our judicial system that can be describes as nothing less than beautiful. I have seen it be a place where the rationality is simply stunning. I’ve seen judges protect defendant’s rights when the entire world wanted to condemn the individual without due process.
To be in a court of law and see a Judge make a 403 or 404 ruling that prejudicial evidence cannot be admitted or that a prior crime must be excluded because it biases a jury too much is a moment that you can live on for a long time. Yes, it’s hurt Mr. Hill’s ability to defend himself, but it also gives the courts an opportunity to show how brilliantly independent they can be.

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